Anthropocentric sustainability perspective

Out of the realization of the limitations of efficiency and effectiveness paradigms in different socio-political-economic nation-states, the ideas of sustainable development perspective evolved in the 1970s. Political leadership in the European Union initiated the sustainable development framework in the late 1980s. In the above context, it would be interesting to discern the changes and adaption in the domain of public policy and public administration in different countries.

Historically, the increasing ecological imbalances and unpredictable climate changes have spurred the studies on sustainability. The issues of sustainability have emerged to be the most critical areas of inquiry in the 21st century. Today there are over 100 educational institutions worldwide that are offering over 150 degree programs on sustainability-related subjects. The UN General Assembly of the UNO set up the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1982. The prime objective of the commission was to propose long-term environmental strategies for achieving sustainable development by the year 2000 and beyond.

Given the global mandate and political orientation of the commission, the Brundtland Report (1987) focused on balancing the economic-social-environmental objectives at the national and international levels for a sustainable course of development (Brundtland, 1987). Balancing social and economic aspects is only equitable; balancing economic and environmental aspects is only viable; balancing environmental and social aspects is only bearable. Balancing all three, viz., social, economic, and environmental, aspects is sustainable. Accordingly, the commission defined that Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Meanwhile, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2015 for Brazil, Russia, India, and China were unveiled in 2000 by the United Nations (Ki-Moon, 2013; Way, 2015). These MDGs consisted of eight goals related to poverty eradication, improving primary' education, improving basic health care, reducing gender gap, environmental sustainability, and developing partnerships. These were primarily aimed at people from industrially less developed countries to catch up with the industrially advanced countries. Public administration in these countries, however, did not change structurally or even functionally. These countries were either already working on these themes or had many more such developmental goals in their respective countries.

By the end of MDGs 2015, the UNO initiated the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs 2030, that consist of 17 goals and 304 indicators to measure the progress. As per the UNO, the respective national governments were expected to achieve these goals by 2030. The 17 goals relate to poverty, hunger, health, education, gender, water sanitation, energy, employment economy, industry innovation infrastructure, inequalities, communities cities, consumption production, climate, life under water, life on land, peace-justice institutions, and partnerships.

While the different agencies of the UNO have been increasingly realigning their activities in the light ofSDGs 2030, the federal or national government and state governments are still being made aware of these goals. The socioeconomic- political challenges and burdens of the respective governments have been so large and complex that SDGs have had little impact on the planning process in most of the governments across the world, except a few countries. The traditional public administration, system, and processes have, in general, been impervious to the structural and functional orientation required for SDGs.

It is only in the European Union that the EU policies have systematically mandated policies in agriculture, industry, energy, transport, etc. since around 2010 and aligned with the indicators of SDGs. The Scandinavian countries appear to have adopted the most toward sustainability principles of living and in public policy. Having high per capita incomes and being small in geographic size, the Scandinavian countries have shown greater ability to reorient their public administration from a sustainability perspective. Bhutan is another example where the state policy administration has been oriented toward sustainability living. Canada and Australia have also made efforts toward sustainable development.

However, the SDG framework of sustainability is focused more on the wellbeing of human beings in different countries and hence is more of an anthropocentric sustainability perspective rather than overall sustainability of the planet, where Homo sapiens are just one of the species.

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